The Trophy Room

  • About
    Trophy Room
    Displays, concrete, glass and photographs
    Laminated photo prints on rolls, cylinders, variable dimensions, 2014.

    In response to these scammers, a group of individuals that call themselves scambbaiters or scambeaters, originating in the United States, have decided to fight against these scams. Adopting a form of role-play, these individuals attempt to scam the scammers. They answer the emails, and pretend to play along in order to deceive them more easily. These exchanges can last years sometimes, and their primary aim is to waste the scammers’ time. Because the 419 law in Nigeria severely punishes the scammers, they operate from Internet cafes. Getting them to waste time is also getting them to waste money. The idea is to trick them and encourage them to execute various actions, at times bizarre and dreadful. This game can be very cruel, blurring the lines of credulity, abuse, power, domination, and to capital, developing a strange link that shifts every role in the story.

    The scambeaters ask the scammers for proof of their « good faith » or motivation. They follow the same routine. Usually, this starts with a questionnaire that the scammer must fill out, then a requested disguise (a knight costume, clown, rock star, Jesus Christ,…) followed by a specific demand to produce an object: for example, the scammer must paint the portrait of a dog, sculpt a wooden computer keyboard, remake a Monty Python sketch or get his arm tattooed. It is unclear whether the scammer inflicts this humiliation or physical abuse upon himself or hires someone in exchange for money. Regardless of the level of knowledge or information concerning these practices, strangely, the only remaining motivation is the will to believe.

    The different collected material (videos, photographs, paintings, sculptures, performances, …) are baptized trophies by the scambeaters, and are exhibited in a “trophy room” (on the 419eater forum, for example) evoking a strange virtual museum. Twenty-three “trophies”, twenty-three key studies are presented. Shown alongside them, the correspondences between scammers and scambeaters are transposed onto laminated prints. These commented exchanges are detailed by the scambeaters and bragged about, they are achievements but also adventures, epistolary novels complete with twists and suspense.

    The chosen scenography for The Trophy Room is a reference to the one architect Lina Bo Bardi produced in the Sao Paulo art museum for André Malraux’s Le Musée Imaginaire, in an echo to art history today, to the status of artwork, its production, circulation, and diffusion.